Milind Soman on judging India’s Next Top Model, and why #MeToo movement must also include male victims

Milind Soman has just finished judging season 4 of MTV reality show India’s Next Top Model. In an exclusive interview to Firstpost, the former model and actor talks about what makes an ideal model in his eyes, and why the #MeToo movement should also involve male victims.

What exactly do you look for in India’s ‘next top model’?

Obviously, we look for confidence and the right attitude in models all the time. But I’m personally more invested in their versatility. The show is much more than the “battle of the beautiful.” They should be able to face challenging situations, change themselves according to the circumstances, and fit into different looks.

In that case, do you think the role of a model is only to do justice to the designer’s creativity? Or should they also assert their own individuality to enhance the product they are endorsing?

A good model is someone who does what’s required. If it’s required to have a strong personality or lend their individuality to the clothes, they should be able to do that. Basically, whatever is required of them, they should be able to deliver that.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, do you feel sensitisation and awareness programmes for models about sexual harassment should also be a part of their initiation process into the industry?
Well, it might be helpful because anything that creates awareness about the freedom of expression is great. But everybody knows that, I guess. They just lack the ability to say no. I think we all should support them on that front.
You insisted that men from the fashion industry must also come out and speak about their sexual harassment episodes.
I think everyone should talk about their stories. It’s not about diluting anyone else’s story. Your story is equally important, whoever you are, wherever you’re from and whatever you’ve faced. And we all want to hear about it. Why should anyone be left out only because of their gender?
Pinkathon was a brilliant idea to merge women empowerment with sports. What role do you think fitness plays in elevating women’s position in society?
Well, I think sports itself is very empowering. It teaches you a great deal about yourself. It creates a lot of self-awareness and self-belief. It enables you to chase your dream and makes you understand that there’s nothing that can stop you, except yourself.
You starred in India’s first English TV series A Mouthful of Sky and the first sci-fi series Captain Vyom. But do you think streaming services will soon foreshadow TV in terms of content?
I hope so. I hope streaming services come out on top. In TV, there’s a very restricted programming. After Captain Vyom, there was no sci-fi series. And similarly, after A Mouthful of Sky, there was no major English TV show. It’s because it’s very difficult for TV to profile its audience. The digital space achieves that. Streaming platforms are all about pulling the audience into any kind of content, and at any time.

Finally, as India crowns its ‘next top model’, what fond memories of your modeling career do you have?
Well, my modeling career was 22 years ago. So much of it is a blur. But everything was a fond memory. I got to explore a whole new world back then and it taught me a lot about people.